Giving Tuesday with GatherDC: Yoga and Bagels

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It’s almost time for Giving Tuesday and that means we’re feeling all mushy and grateful for our community members who make it possible for Gather to even exist (yes, that’s you).
 

To show you how much we appreciate you, we’ve decided that instead of celebrating this global giving movement with tons of emails and posts asking for money – we’re just going to invite you to a gratitude themed vinyasa yoga class led by Gather’s in-house yoga teacher Allie Friedman (200 hour RYT) followed by a Call Your Mother bagel breakfast.
 

What: A 45 minute all-levels yoga class, followed by breakfast and schmoozing
When: Tuesday, December 3rd | Yoga at 7:30am, Breakfast to follow at 8:30am
Where: Our townhouse, 1817 M St NW
Who: Any 20s/30s across Jewish DC
Cost: Free with optional $18 donation (Donate below or Venmo @GatherDC)

If you’re unsure if it’s worth it to wake up early for this gathering, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide you with a pro/con list: 

 

Reasons to come
You’ll enjoy 1-2 hours in your Giving Tuesday that don’t involve being bombarded with emails asking for money
• You’ll start the day feeling calm, energized, and dare we say happier
• When you show up to work at 9am, you can humblebrag to your coworker about how you’ve taken a full yoga class before they had their morning coffee
• You might meet a new best friend
• Call Your Mother bagels (*mic drop*)

Reasons not to come
• You hate getting an early start to the day
• You’ve never left a yoga class feeling better than you did before
• You don’t believe in carbs or caffeine
• You hate meeting awesome people

Oh, and if yoga is not your thing – you’re welcome to just come for the bagels! Convinced? Great. Sign up below.
 

P.S. We are so grateful to Sunomi and Call Your Mother for generously donating bagels and a special switchel drink to fuel us up after yoga class.

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G
atherDC welcomes the participation of people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. GatherDC ​fosters inclusive communities​​​ and strive​s​ to accommodate all needs whenever possible. If you require special accommodations, please contact us​ in advance of the event​ at (202) 656-0743, and we will make every effort to meet your needs.

By attending, you understand that photographs and/or video may be taken at this event, and your picture may appear on the GatherDC website, publications, or other media.

 

 

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Meet Lilly: Jewish Outdoorswoman of the Week!

When she’s not running around to one of the EIGHT different hotels she does HR for, you might find Lilly Andorsky trekking through Harper’s Ferry, biking around the city, or enjoying a delicious Chinese food dinner. Get to know this happy-go-lucky, nature loving woman!

lilly

Allie: What led you to DC?

Lilly: I grew up in Columbia, Maryland and went to school in Charleston, South Carolina, and after graduating I decided to come back home. I was having FOMO being away from my family.

Allie: How did you get involved in hospitality?

Lilly: I went to school to be in event planning, and after doing internships with event planners I realized it was not what I wanted to do. So, I started working at a resort in Charleston, South Carolina and realized I really liked the HR aspect of that job. I work for Crestline Hotels and Resorts, and support 8 hotels in the DMV area.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day:

Lilly: I would wake up and have a cup of coffee. It would be a beautiful fall day. It would be a weekday so everyone else is working and it wouldn’t be crowded in the city. I would go for a 20-25 mile bike ride around DC, and then stop for some lunch. I’d like to get in a little hike as well, and at the end of the day have a massage. For dinner, I’d go out for Chinese food.

lilly

Allie: Where are your favorite places to hike?

Lilly: I like to hike in Shenandoah, especially Old Rag. I love Sugarloaf because it starts out very woodsy and then there’s a beautiful overlook. I also like Harpers Ferry, my friends and I camp the night before and then do the Overlook Trail in the morning. I just like being being outdoors and around nature, especially when I can be without my phone and computer.

Allie: What’s on your bucket list for this year or goals you have?

Lilly: I don’t really like to set goals. I just want to be happy and keep it simple.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Lilly: My mother. She’s just great. She enjoys life and makes sure to uphold her Jewish identity. She’s a first generation American and her father was a Holocaust survivor. As I’ve grown older, I’ve gained a deeper understanding about how life wasn’t so easy for her. She had a very different upbringing than normal American children. When I was growing up, my mom made an effort to create a Jewish household and I appreciate that. She’s my best friend.

lilly

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday and why?

Lilly: Passover. The second night my parents always host Seder, and I love it because my dad leads us in “Pesach Jeopardy”. We start off with a shot of tequila. It’s just 30 adults having a really great time. He used to do it on notecards but now he does it on a PowerPoint. It’s really fun.

Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Lilly: My birth story is in the Library of Congress. My dad was in Desert Storm when my mom went into labor with me. And through a small coincidence, he was able to come home for my birth. My mom reached out to StoryCorps to tell this story, and everything they record is in the Library of Congress

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Lilly: They laugh.

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

A Nice Jewish Girl’s Guide to Noshing at Taim

taim falafel

Israeli Chef Einat Admony and her husband Stéfan Nafziger recently opened a new, vegetarian Israeli restaurant called Taïm in Georgetown. I recently went to discover if Taïm truly lives up to its namesake, which means “tasty” in Hebrew. 

I was personally very excited to nosh at Taïm because I’m vegan and appreciated their mostly plant based – and kosher – menu. I was happy to discover that their falafel was so crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, light, and overall delicious! To me, good falafel is like manna from heaven. 

Chef Admony explains:

“I really believe Israeli food is vegetable-centric. It’s also a melting pot of flavors from Morocco to Eastern Europe. It’s all about choices.” 

Taïm highlights the Jewish diaspora cuisine with spices of saffron, cumin, and tahina. Chef Admony proves that there’s so much more flavor to Israeli food than just tahina. She says:

“The difference between Israeli cuisine compared to other cuisines is much like us [Jews], Israeli cooking is a melting pot of flavors. It comes from a lot of different cultures that came together throughout Israel.

What’s nice about Taïm is that although much they prepare is naturally vegan, it’s NOT a strictly a vegan restaurant. So, it’s also inclusive to family members who don’t want to eat a strictly vegan diet.

For example, my mother who is not about that “vegan life” was able to enjoy Taïm’s fries with a saffron aioli, which was sadly not vegan due to the eggs in the sauce. She also loved the Iraqi dish, sabich pita sandwich. It looked so delicious and fresh! If you are an egg enthusiast, then try this fluffy pita sandwich stuffed with tender fried eggplant, sliced hard boiled egg, amba (mango sauce–a personal favorite) tahina, and salad. The staff at Taïm is very accommodating and happy to make any dish vegan if they are asked, including the sabbich. 

Taïm is so much for than falafel and hummus. It’s selection of kosher mezze reflects Admony’s Israeli heritage (Yemenite and Persian). Some other amazing “must try mezzes” on the menu are:

  • Hummus: It is full of zaatar seasoning and freshly made by the batch. 
  • Spanish Eggplant: A delicious compote of eggplant and tomato. Taïm’s Spanish eggplant is not your pre-made glatt kosher eggplant and tomato compote served family simchas and shul onegs. It’s freshly made, and actually tastes a bit like cold eggplant parmesan. 
  • Moroccan Carrots: This incorporates harissa, which gives it a nice little bite. 
  • Tabouli: It’s a good find, full of fresh herbs and is light! 
  • Vegan Baba ganoush: This is my personal favorite on the menu. Most baba ganoush contains egg, making it almost impossible for vegans (such as myself) to enjoy. Like the well-known scene in the movie “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” when Adam Sandler eats the hummus with the spoon, that’s how I enjoyed my baba ganoush at Taïm..

Chef Admony incorporates spices from all over the Middle East. While there are many chefs opening Israeli restaurants, Admony is making her name in a male-dominated cooking world. After all, to be a true balaboosta, you need a whole lot of chutzpah (audacity) and ruach (spirit), both of which Admony has in spades. The pricing of Taïm is reasonable. However, the side mezzes can start to add up and it can be hard to choose which ones to get. Taïm also offers a selection of seltzers. After all, seltzer is the Jewish champagne. 

L’chayim!

 

Editor’s note: Instagram has informed us that if you show your DC Kosher phone card holder, you can get a 10% discount during November. You can get one of these phone backs from Ohev Shalom (@JewsofDC).


 

 

 

micheleAbout the Author: Michele Amira is a nice Jewish girl,  DC based journalist, spoken word artist, and vegan. When not writing, she might be found Israeli dancing,  listening to hip-hop, and enjoying a l’chaim (toast) with her favorite drink – margaritas on the rocks. 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Andrew: Jewish Home Chef of the Week

andrew

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Andrew: It’s been my dream to move to DC ever since I interned here during college for House Majority Leader Pelosi at the time. I fell in love with the city, it was easy to navigate and fit me so well personality-wise. I love politics, and DC is the political epicenter of the nation. Plus, there’s so much action here which is great because I’m someone who likes to be very involved. After graduating, I got a job working for HUD (Housing and Urban Development department). 

Allie: Have you always been interested in politics?

Andrew: Ever since high school I’ve known I wanted to work in the public sector so I could do something to improve people’s lives and give them better opportunities. I was very inspired by the 2008 election and got into politics after that. 

Allie: What was it like interning for Nancy Pelosi?

Andrew: I had the time of my life. It was a part of a Semester in Washington program that I did during college. I was on Capitol Hill and I learned so much, both in terms of policy and politics, as well as expectations and professional decorum. I gained more maturity and broader perspectives on things.

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day.

Andrew: I would check out one of the farmer’s markets and Trader Joe’s in the morning, and then play basketball with my friends. After that, I’ll have a nice light lunch and then go to a cultural event at an embassy or museum. I love doing things where I can learn and feel awe-inspired. Then, I might ride my bike to a new area of the city. Since I’m still relatively new, I’m amazed by all the different pockets of DC. 

Later, I’ll go out to dinner with friends at Zaytina. I started going there during the government shutdown because José Andrés had free sandwiches, and just kept going back. If it’s a Sunday, I would also prepare my dinner list for the week and do some cooking. 

andrew

Allie: Is cooking a big hobby of yours?

Andrew: Yes, I love cooking – it’s very rewarding. I have a whole spice and cutting board area set up in my apartment and love experimenting with different spices, seeds, and mustards. I love chopping produce, and making recipes that are healthy and fun. I’m always trying new things. 

Allie: What inspired your love of cooking?

Andrew: I grew up in a house where we were all foodies, and my mom was a very big advocate for cooking. She taught me a lot. I’m also someone who has struggled with weight and lost weight, and don’t want to regress and go back. To maintain my healthy lifestyle, I’ve learned to make dishes that are nutritious and enjoyable.

I also love cooking for others and hosting them for Shabbat or Havdalah. Hosting is such a nice way to welcome people into your how and show a different part of your personality. I think that how and why someone cooks says a lot about their values.

Allie: Do you have any cooking goals for yourself this year?

Andrew: I’d like to get into baking, which is much more scientific and you really have to follow instructions. Baking will be a new challenge for me, and I think will give me a big sense of accomplishment and joy.

Allie: What are your favorite ways to spend free time in the city?

Andrew: I love going to the embassies, or new exhibits at museums like the Freer Sackler Gallery. I really like to pursue things that get me out of my comfort zone, and DC has so many educational opportunities that help me see things from different angles. I also love the incredible diversity of speakers in DC. I went to see Hilary and Chelsea Clinton a few weeks ago and am going to see Nikki Haley this week. 

I’ve also been inspired by DC’s fitness culture. Biking seems like a religion down here, and I’ve been trying to pick up my biking pace on a daily basis. I love long extended bike rides.

Also, I enjoy relaxing at Compass Coffee. That is where I do some of my best decompressing, reading, and thinking. You can almost always find me there during a free weekend afternoon.

Allie: What are you looking forward to this coming year?

Andrew: Since I’m still pretty new, I really am excited about all of the young Jewish professional events around town. I like the more meaningful, intimate gatherings that create a sense of camaraderie. I’m hoping to get more involved with FIDF’s young professional arm.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Andrew: It brings out the best of us. We build a sense of community, camaraderie, and friendship – which is exactly what we need more of. 

andrew

 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Mollie: Jewish Foodie of the Week

When she’s not empowering women as the president of JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network, Mollie Bowman is taste-testing the best of the Michelin Guide in DC, enjoying the monuments at night, or dreaming of becoming a comedy writer.


mollie 2

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Mollie: I’m from Atlanta, and moved to DC for school at GW. I have no intention of leaving anytime soon.

Allie: I heard you worked on the Hilary campaign in 2016, do you still work in politics?

Mollie: I currently work in consulting but all of my clients are government. I’ve always loved politics. I worked on Hilary’s campaign in 2016. We’re in a tumultuous time right now – and there’s so much opportunity to do good. 

Allie: Are you planning to work on a campaign for the 2020 election?

Mollie: Maybe. I have my candidate, I would love to see a woman as president. 

Allie: Walk me through your perfect DC day from start to finish.

Mollie: I would wake up early, I’m definitely a morning person. I’d go to pilates or SoulCycle. I think I would have breakfast at Blue Duck Tavern. If it’s beautiful, I’d love to walk on the Mall or Arboretum. I’d go to the American History Museum, National Gallery of Art, or the Newseum. Then, I’d have dinner with friends. I’ve built such a network in the city over the past 7 years and feel like my friends are my family. We’d go somewhere really delicious for dinner, maybe Tail Up Goat. I’m such a foodie. After, maybe I’d walk around the monuments. There’s a lot of power in seeing the monuments for me. 

mollie

Allie: As a foodie, what is your favorite dish or cuisine?

Mollie: I love sushi. I would eat sushi every meal if I could. I just made reservations at Sushi Taro. I live by the Michelin Guide. In DC, food has such a unique ability to bring people together. You can be fighting across the aisle in politics, but you can come together across the table. Really good restaurants play a big role in the city. You see José Andrés give so much back – he’s like a one man FEMA. 

Allie: I hear you’re the new JWI Young Women’s Leadership Network (YWLN) President. How did you get involved in JWI?

Mollie: I went to my first JWI event last year. It was a Jewish Women in Policy event, there were three members of Congress speaking, many women involved in advocacy at the top levels. It didn’t feel like an elite gathering, it felt like real women talking about their experiences in that space and how Judaism has connected them to giving back. I fell in love with JWI from that one event. JWI’s events put an emphasis on mentorship, intergenerational leadership, and engaging young women. I applied to be on the YWLN Board after the conference and have loved it so much that I am now the board president (as of August)!

mollie

Allie: Are there any JWI events coming up that our community should know about?

Mollie: One event that just passed was in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Breaking the cycle of domestic violence is a big pillar of JWI. We recently assembled care kits for women in domestic violence shelters and collected children’s books to go in libraries in those shelters. We have our Young Women’s Leadership Conference coming up on December 15th. That’s our biggest event of the year where we hear from the Women to Watch who are such incredible, accomplished Jewish leaders. I’d encourage any young, Jewish woman in Washington to attend. 

Allie: Do you have any goals for the coming year?

Mollie: I want to start writing more to give myself a creative outlet. I’d love to get into comedy writing. I’ve never dabbled in it before, but it would be a dream of mine. I’d also like to try to focus on putting out gratitude more than apologies. This year I’m trying to deserve to occupy the spaces I’m in, not have imposter syndrome, not feel like things are always my fault.

Allie: Do you have a Jewish role model?

Mollie: My mom. I grew up reform, but with so much reverence for Judaism. My mom always made Judaism such a special part of my childhood. We did Shabbat every Friday night, and Passover was so fun. She made Judaism so important to me. I’m like a carbon copy of my mom and take this with so much honor. I would also say Rachel Gildiner. She’s been such a grounding force in my life. She serves with so much grace as the leader of GatherDC.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Mollie: There’s power in numbers to make a difference. I was at the Return Again Service at Adas Israel for Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Hotzblatt mentioned that there were thousands of Jews worshipping publicly and how that in and of itself is a redemption. I was overwhelmed by that.

mollie and shelly

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Blake: Jewish Gifting Pro of the Week

blake band

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Blake: I grew up in this area, went to Wootton High School and then University of Florida for college.  I stayed at UF for grad school in entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial marketing. I came back to DC to get a job, and interned for Cava Restaurant Group before getting a job at a startup. I stayed because I like DC, I like the vibe. I’m not a New York person.

Allie: As someone who studies entrepreneurship, are you a big “Shark Tank” fan?

Blake: Yes – I love “Shark Tank”. I was in school in 2014, which was the “Shark Tank” era. My house is littered with “Shark Tank” products, whether they’re gifts or things I bought for myself. I’ve always really enjoyed new products and tech.

Allie: Have you put your entrepreneurship skills into action?

Blake: I’ve had a lot of lemonade stands. My latest endeavor is IGiveCoolGifts.com. It’s a one-stop shop for your gift-giving needs. It’s a clean, simple, easy-to-use interface with cool ideas for things your friends could actually use and won’t throw away. I’ve always loved giving gifts. I think if you put in a little effort, it can really make a big impact for someone. On the site, I also give custom gift suggestions. So if you have a wedding coming up, a White Elephant exchange, or a housewarming party – I’m happy to lend my skills. This site has also been a great way to connect with different makers and small businesses who are doing really cool things, and give them a publication to get a little more out there. 

Allie: Is gift giving your love language?

Blake: Definitely. I’m terrible at receiving gifts, but I love giving them. Growing up, for birthdays or Hanukkah, my family made it a big gifting thing. My mom celebrates my birthday as a national holiday in her mind. There were always multiple layers of gifts for it. My mom has an art and design background, and my dad has a quirky side – growing up with that led me to want to give cool gifts to people as a way to connect with them. 

Allie: What are a few good gift suggestions for a Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving host?

Blake: An electric chainsaw carving knife is fun – I saw this on The Grommet. There’s a company called Muirwood Reclamations, and they do a concrete cake stand. I’d maybe bake a cake and bring it on a concrete cake stand that I’d give as a gift. Or you could give a smart thermometer that goes in the oven, and syncs up to your phone and will tell you when the food is done. Stressed out around family? There’s CBD gummies for that. 

Allie: Walk us through your perfect day in DC.

Blake: I’d wake up a little late and grab breakfast at Dupont Market, then go to the gym so I can feel better about the things I’m doing the rest of the day. I’d go to Union Market and spend hours there, then meet up with a friend and explore a new museum or exhibit at the Hirshhorn or the Arboretum. I’ll bring my camera and take photos. I’ll probably take a nap, and then have dinner somewhere low key like Bar Charley. I’d find an Old Fashioned somewhere like Two Birds,One Stone – which is now Destination Wedding. The drinks are still incredible. Then, I’d be home relatively early.

Allie: You mentioned photography in your perfect day. Is that a hobby of yours?

Blake: Yes, I really like photography and using it as a mechanism to explore. I like to bring an actual camera rather than using my phone, because I find that gives me a good excuse to take photos of random things and people.

blake with camera

Allie: What are your go-to ways to relax?

Blake: I play soccer every week through District Sports. I like working out when I can. And I’m a huge movie and TV fan. Right now, I love “Fleabag” on Amazon Prime and “Peaky Blinders” on Netflix. For movies – I just watched “Yesterday”, “Book Smart”, and “Spiderman Far from Home”.  

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

Blake: Hanukkah. My family does a big Hanukkah party every year. We do a Secret Selma, which is just a Jewish version of Secret Santa. We pick names out of a hat on Thanksgiving and then exchange gifts during Hanukkah. I take it very seriously. Also, my aunt is a great cook and she makes us a mean red velvet cake. 

Allie: What’s on your bucket list?

Blake: I have a list of things I want to accomplish before turning 30 – skydiving, sliding across the hood of a car, tying a bow-tie, traveling to a city alone, and changing a tire. In life, the bucket of my bucket list would be to host SNL. I’d also love to start a business – whether it be opening a restaurant or making a really great product.  

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Blake: Someone will know my grandpa or uncle. My uncle is an OBGYN in the area at Capital Women’s Care and there’s always someone who went to him or knows someone who has been to that office.

blake

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Nikki: Jewish Teacher of the Week!

nikki

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Nikki: I applied to be a part of the Avodah Jewish Service Corps, which is a year-long Jewish service program. At 22, didn’t know what I wanted to do professionally, but knew I wanted to be part of repairing the world and Avodah gave me the opportunity to figure it out. I appreciated that it had a Jewish lens because Judaism has always been very important to my life.

Allie: Why is Judaism important to you?

Nikki: My answer changes depending on where I am in life. Right now, my first thought is my wedding, future family, and future career path. But, 10 years ago, it would have been about how I’m building relationships with people and what volunteer work I’m doing. 10 years before that it was “Who am I?”.

At this point in my life, I’m planning a Jewish wedding with my fiancé, but what an interfaith marriage means to us is different from what our parents had. I’ve been thinking about what my parents did for me in creating our home – like having family dinners consistently be a part of our Jewish practice and valuing education so much. It’s no mistake that I wound up working in education as a profession.

Judaism has always been an easy thing to turn to if I was scared, or unsure, or joyful. It’s very moldable and flexible.

Allie: Tell me about your experience with Avodah?

Nikki: It was kind of like Real World: the Jewish DC edition. 24 of us in two houses; where people explored their faith and things got real. It was an awesome experience where we learned how to use our Judaism to be agents of change.

We had house meetings, everything was communal. We once had a 2-hour long discussion about whether or not to buy a crock pot for the house. We all had jobs outside the house, and mine was at DC SCORES as the Community Outreach Coordinator.  That professional experience was transformative for me. 

Allie: What led you to work as a teacher in special education?

Nikki: I knew from an early age I wanted to be a teacher, and my job at DC SCORES allowed me a chance to work within schools all over the city. My biggest reason for specializing in teaching students with disabilities was my younger sister, Dana. She has ADHD and always struggled in school growing up – mostly because the environments she was in could not adjust to her style of learning. It was then I knew I wanted to be a part of creating a more inclusive learning classroom for all the Dana’s out there that just needed a teacher who “gets it” – and many of us do!

So I made a decision to get a Masters in Teaching Students with Moderate Disabilities at Lesley University and go into special education, specifically inclusive education using Universal Design to fit the classroom to my students’ needs. It was the best decision I ever made.

I’ve enjoyed working to unravel the science of learning with my students – it’s similar to taking apart a puzzle and rebuilding it in a totally different way. Watching students make progress who previously believed they couldn’t is always the best part of my day.

My partner also works in the disability field, and he recently started a unified rugby team for kids of all abilities called Washington Wolf Pack. I’m their social media manager. 

nikki and fiance

Allie: What’s your dream DC day from start to finish?

Nikki: I’d wake up without an alarm, and immediately have a delicious espresso. From there, I’d walk to the Arboretum and spend time walking and reading there. I’d have some delicious sandwich for lunch – I love sandwiches – and then spend time with people that I like. It seems simple, but so are the best things in life.

Allie: What do you do to relax?

Nikki: I love reading science fiction, especially on a hammock. Science fiction has a way of taking me away from whatever I’m feeling or thinking. 

Allie: What are you most excited about for the coming Jewish New Year?

Nikki: I’m excited that, this year feels like a big personal year. I’m excited to be in my 30’s and take more time for me this year.

Allie: What’s on your life bucket list?

Nikki: I want to start learning rock climbing. And pottery. I have a whole list of “maybe this is my new thing” hobbies I want to check off this year!

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Nikki: I love Passover. It’s so moldable to whatever is happening is the world now. I’ve seen some pretty interesting ways to interpret Passover to understand various human rights issues that are closer to us (in time and location) than our Exodus from Egypt. My partner and I have taken our own approach to celebrating Passover a little differently and added new items to the seder plate. That has been the first time I’ve seen him get really engaged in our Jewish home. It feels like something we’ve built together. My favorite new seder plate item of ours is something he came up with: a radish to represent people with disabilities. Often overlooked in value or placed there to be a decorative item, the radish offers incredible nutritional value when fully included in the dish.

passover nikki

Allie: What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Nikki: I was an All-American cheerleader in high school, and used to competitively dance. I channel a LOT of that team spirit and kinesthetic movement in my teaching.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Nikki: There’s a lot of laughter and delicious food!

nikki

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Can We Find Joy In Vulnerable Times this Sukkot?

As Yom Kippur ended last Wednesday night, I quickly had a bite of a bagel and downed some orange juice. I soon checked in on social media after taking a nice break from it over the holiday. 

I was quickly horrified to see the news of the terrorist attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany earlier that day and the tragic death of two innocent people, 40 year-old Jana Lange and 20 year-old Kevin S. This tragic shooting came about a year after another terrorist attack on a Jewish house of worship in Pittsburg. In between were too many acts of baseless hatred directed against minorities here and around the world. 

This time I knew some of the victims who were at the synagogue in Halle and thankfully, lived to tell of their experiences. As one can imagine, they recounted how terrifying the ordeal was and to have to wait inside (and even outside) the locked synagogue for help to arrive. They also shared deep gratitude that the terrorist was not able to infiltrate the building and kill even more people. The group of Jews who started the day in a synagogue on the holiest day of the year concluded their Yom Kippur service at a local hospital instead, where they were taken to be checked for signs of shock and trauma. 

One of the people I know later posted a video of several members of the group coming home from the hospital on a bus together. One person blew the shofar as many communities do to mark the end of Yom Kippur, and then the group erupted in joyous song and dance (which is another way communities conclude Yom Kippur, but this time the gratitude was obviously connected to surviving what had transpired earlier that day).

bus video

Members of the group singing together on a bus returning from the hospital after the Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, Germany

Although I understood the vast range of emotions the folks inside the synagogue must have felt throughout the day, instinctively I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable watching this video. I had just learned about everything that happened and was in the throes of feeling the three A’s: anxious, angry, and afraid. I know I could only interpret this experience as an onlooker, but I just couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to muster up any kind of will to sing and dance after living through a nightmarish experience. I’m sure there were some who didn’t.  

Even if it didn’t feel natural to me as the one reading this news from afar, I recognize that mustering up song is a deep and important act of spiritual resilience in the midst of deep pain.

In no way will the Jews who were there in Halle forget this Yom Kippur – it will forever impact them as it will those who lost their loved ones that day. I pray that they soon find comfort in their grief. 

But I want to recognize that this attack, like many others, can and may have already seeped into our own minds every time we walk into a visible Jewish space or publically show up as a Jewish person. Truth be told, I find myself worrying more and more about physical violence in public places, Jewish and not, and I don’t know if not being afraid is an option anymore. Is it just a matter of when it happens as opposed to if it happens at this point? 

And yet, before I despair for too long, logic tells me that the world will continue to turn and we must go along with it. While we are alive and breathing, we always have the ability to shape our responses to people and events, and therefore, we can redefine these vulnerable times. 

One piece of Jewish wisdom I find myself going back to again and again when I’m disheartened comes from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Father. It says, 

“In a place where there are no people, strive to be a person” (Pirkei Avot 5:2).

What this means is that when our humanity is deeply challenged, we must show up as the full, beautiful, and loving humans that we are. And sometimes, that has to entail creating moments for joy regardless of what’s going on around us. 

I can’t think of a better time than this week of Sukkot to lean deeply into this message. On Sukkot, we are told to dwell (eat, hang out, and if possible, sleep) in sukkot, or huts which commemorate the temporary shelters the Israelites lived in as they wandered through the desert after leaving Egypt. But the Torah also says,

“You shall rejoice in your festival … and you shall have nothing but joy.“ (Deuteronomy  16:14-15).

Joy is such a central part to Sukkot that it even goes by another name, Z’man Simchateinu, “The Season of our Rejoicing.” So, unless one is really into glamping (which I am, actually…), how is this holiday supposed to help us feel joy? And what are we celebrating exactly?

Sukkot is a holiday of rejoicing, but many may not realize that it’s about rejoicing amidst our vulnerability. More than anything, Sukkot is a festival that commemorates a period of wandering. It asks us to reenact that in-between place of knowing where we came from (or fled from) and where we’d like to be (and may soon arrive at), but not sure how long the present moment of the unknown will last or what it will consist of. 

Sukkot (the huts) are made to help us embody this message by exposing us to the outside world (a “kosher” sukkah must allow us to see the stars in the sky at night, so the “roofing” which usually consists of scattered bamboo shoots, branches or corn stalks, can’t totally protect us from the rain, sun, or even bird poop). The sides are usually made with a tarp or strung pieces of cloth. They are not meant to be comfortable fortresses, let alone a real home.  

On Sukkot we literally embody the temporary nature of things and remember that we are often susceptible to the elements, which may not seem so fun when it rains or is windy. We also observe the holiday with joyful prayers (accompanied by shaking a sweet smelling plant/fruit combo called a lulav and etrog), songs, and festive meals. Additionally, it is a custom to invite guests to our sukkot each day. On Sukkot, we practice facing the world openly, but together.

Sukkot

If Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur ask us to move inward and examine our internal lives, Sukkot asks us to shift our gaze outward.

We may not always like what we see, and we may be forced to see difficult things anew each day, but we can resolve to do so with our own humanity intact by living out our values, being in community, deepening our relationships, and finding moments to celebrate what is good in our lives. And sometimes, the outside world is breathtakingly gorgeous and we should let Mother Earth do her own healing work on us, too. 

So, should we seek joy amidst our vulnerability? Absolutely. It’s our right. Can we? It’s hard, but it’s definitely possible. How should we try? By being realistic about the world we live in and still showing up as human beings, together. 

We don’t need to eat every meal in a sukkah to be able to do this, nor do we have to celebrate this week with Jews alone, but what if we tried to spend each day this week creating a moment for joy, relief or celebration for other people? 

  • Tell people in your life that you’re grateful for them,
  • Compliment others on something they do well,
  • Ask how an old friend is doing,  
  • Bake something delicious for your officemates, 
  • Cook a meal with good friends and invite a new one to join your group,
  • Give up your seat on the metro during rush hour, 
  • Happily give someone in need the money they ask for. 

That’s my plan this week and I hope you’ll join me and tell me all about it. 

Wishing you a chag sameach – a truly joyous holiday. 

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ilanaAbout the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and exploring Jewish ideas that are relevant and alive for people in their 20’s and 30’s. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Miriam: Jewish Internationalist of the Week

miriamAllie: What led you to live in DC?

Miriam: I grew up in Silver Spring and wasn’t planning to come back after graduation, but there were a lot of jobs here in international affairs. I don’t know if DC will be my forever place, but it’s great for now.

Allie: What led to your passion in international affairs?

Miriam: I’ve always been interested in it, especially since I grew up in DC and there are lots of embassies and a big international community here. I was lucky enough to be able to travel while I was in college, and became really interested in how other people are living around the world. 

Being exposed to different countries, geographies, and lifestyles made me want to study this on an academic level. I want to get a macro look at the systems and institutions that create the state of international affairs, how countries interact with each other, and then how people interact with each other. Specifically, my interests lie in studying gender, inclusion, and religions and how those forces influence what people value, and how that has a ripple effect on policy, government, and diplomacy

Allie: Walk me through your dream day in DC from start to finish.

Miriam: I’ll start with bagels because that’s very important to me. My personal loyalty lies with Bethesda Bagels, but for this dream day I might go to Bullfrog Bagels at Eastern Market and then walk around the market, try some produce samples. I’d then go be on the water – maybe get a sailboat, or kayak. I would bring a picnic of things I got from Eastern Market to Kingman Island. Then, I’d pick a nice rooftop to watch the sunset and have dinner at Maydan. After dinner I’d go get a drink somewhere.

Allie: How do you relax?

Miriam: I love to walk, which is such a great way to get to know new places. I also love to lie on my hammock and read. I love to cook as well. Since I’ve started working and am looking at a computer all day, cooking allows me to not look at a screen, decompress, and then get some good food at the end! 

Allie: What are your favorite things to cook?

Miriam: I’m a vegetarian, and I love making spaghetti squash with caramelized onions and adding maple syrup and brown sugar – it’s like dessert spaghetti. I love baked mac and cheese. I think that might be my favorite food. I also make green curry now and then when I have the patience.

miriam

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish dish?

Miriam: Apple strudel. My mom makes to for Sukkot every year.

Allie: Who is your Jewish role model?

Miriam: One of the rabbis at Tufts Hillel, Rabbi Jordan, who focuses a lot on building community and meeting people where they are. He works hard to expand the idea of what being Jewish can mean. During Elul, he sends journal prompts to this email list and every day there’s a new prompt to reflect and journal on. Its my most regular spiritual practice, it’s such a nice way to inspire so many people to participate.

Allie: What are you looking forward to this coming Jewish New Year?

Miriam: I want to go on a solo backpacking or camping trip. I love being outdoors but have never done something like that on my own. I’m also excited about an interfaith summit that I’m working on this year through the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington. It’s a multi-faith conference for young leaders to come together and dialogue. It will be a lot of work, but hopefully will turn out well!

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Miriam: Hopefully somebody knows how to bake challah.

 

miriam

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

3 Alternative Ways to Fast this Yom Kippur

Photo from Thought Catalog, UnSplash

Yom Kippur is hard.

At least, for me – a fairly connected, yet pretty unreligious Jew on her own spiritual journey and trying to figure out how these traditional rituals fit into her own life – if they even do hold meaning and have a place in her life – Yom Kippur can be a tricky time of year.

I love the idea of an annual time of year to do some serious “soul-accounting”, but as someone who never grew up engaging with the High Holidays beyond two mind-numbingly boring services and a day without eating (which in reality was having the annual conversation with my mom, “you can fast if you want to, but Julie you really don’t have to, there’s no pressure…”) – how do I meaningfully engage with this day as an adult? How do I observe this holiday without these fledgling practices that come with it feeling rote, like I’m going through the motions of Yom Kippur without actually getting the “why” behind them?

Luckily, there’s a long Jewish history of diving head-first into practice and doing the learning as we go.

From the time the Jews accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai, it was all about “na’aseh vnishma” – “we will do and we will understand”. Understanding the meaning behind a practice or a law is important and valuable, and certainly the ultimate goal. But, if we continue to wait until we feel like we’re “ready” to meaningfully engage with a Jewish custom, we may never feel brave enough, never knowledgeable enough, never Jewish enough to take the plunge.

The good news is, if you’re relating to anything I’ve written thus far, you’re not alone! And I am ready to take that plunge with you.

Yom Kippur starts tonight, and as you may know, a huge component of this holiday is the idea of fasting – but why? Let’s dig into some background.

Why do we fast on Yom Kippur?

As one of the holiest days of the year, Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. It’s when we reflect and repent for our sins and seek forgiveness from those we have hurt. Fasting is meant to be a vehicle for repentance, to “self-deny” (Leviticus 23:32) in order to truly reflect on the repentance process. As Jewish educator Aliza Bulow has said,

“The purpose of fasting is to bring one to repent, and true repentance brings about a change in actions. However, repenting without fasting is not enough.”

Interesting concept. The thing is – and I know this might be the choosy millennial in me coming out – fasting doesn’t really “connect” with me. In these days of intermittent fasting and OMAD, I know so many people who don’t even blink at not eating for a full day. While I don’t follow those food practices, I frequently find myself working through lunch without realizing and decide to just wait until dinner. Part of my ongoing reluctance to engage with the fasting tradition on Yom Kippur stems from the fact that, well, it isn’t really too much a hardship for me, and it’s not a self-denial that’s going to cause me to turn inward to truly stop and reflect, so why bother?

In discussing this disinterest in fasting with my cohort in GatherDC’s High Holidays Prep Class last month led by Rabbi Ilana, I started hearing about alternative ways people have taken this idea of fasting and made it their own. So – in the vein of me being a choosy millennial who wants to do it ~*her own way*~ – I’ve compiled this list of alternative ways people have interpreted the idea of self-denial and molded it to fit their own lifestyles. If you have other suggestions, ideas, or perspectives – please email me at juliet@gatherdc.org or comment below. I’d love to discuss further!

Fast from Social Media

social media fast

We’ve all complained about the monotony of the endless march of baby photos from our high school peers and the political memes from our family members, but when it comes down to it, we can’t seem to put the phone down! Addicted to the meager hit of serotonin that little Instagram heart provides, I find myself checking my apps without even realizing it. I put my phone down, only to immediately pick it up 17 seconds later to scroll mindlessly, before realizing what I’ve just done and throwing my phone down in disgust. 

This fast is, frankly, deeply appealing. What better way to connect with yourself and reflect on the past year, than by removing the device that may be a gateway, but is also one of the biggest barriers in connecting to your larger social world? Disconnect, power down, and let yourself sink into the past year without the aid of your timeline. What went wrong? Where could you have done better? The answers might be hard, but they definitely won’t be found behind your screens.

Fast from Waste

plastic fast

This concept was first introduced to me by GatherDC’s Rabbi Ilana, who sent me the Cleanse 5780 challenge as a different way to connect with the High Holiday season. Cleanse 5780, led by Shaina Shealey and Arielle Golden, is a 10-day initiative using the Days of Awe (the 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) to intensively reflect on “the mind/body/spirit connection” by eliminating food-based, single-use plastics from your life.

This “cleanse” spoke deeply to my rapidly growing environmental panic, and gave me the space and permission to start thinking about how I can change my habits to be kinder to our world. I really love the idea of fasting from some of the most wasteful aspects of our modern life. In refraining from participating in needless and harmful waste, we can use these energies instead to reflect on the things we can repent for as it pertains to our ecological sins and how we can change our actions to do and be better going forward.

Fast from Judgment

gossip

This might seem like an odd contender for a blog on how to observe and engage with the Day of Judgment, but hear me out.

Judgment is a daily part of our lives, and sometimes it can be helpful – being able to take stock of social situations and make snap judgments is critical to navigating our social world and maintaining one’s physical safety in it, especially in a young, vibrant, urban environment like Washington, DC. However, I think many of us often find ourselves unfairly judging strangers, our social networks, even our friends and family, and it becomes harmful very quickly when this judgment shifts from doing it for yourself and to being a harmful action you do to others.

Our connected world makes it easier than ever to pass this mean, petty type of judgment, to feel judged by the virtual masses (see: Social Media Fast), even to pass overly-critical negative judgment on ourselves! As Rabbi Adina Allen said in her Erev (eve of) Rosh Hashanah sermon just last week, “…we are all too quick to take God’s place, elevating ourselves to the role of arbiter, looking upon one another harshly, judging loudly, sentencing with impunity.” What if we left the judgment to God tomorrow and chose to navigate our day entirely without judgment, in order to more fully focus and turn inward to reflect on our own actions of the last year?

These three alternatives to fasting might not be enshrined in the Torah, but they’re still a way to connect with the themes and the meaning behind the day. I don’t have all the answers– in fact, I think I might be less certain of myself than I was when I started this article. What I do know, is that in really sitting and thinking about what this holiday and process represents, I’ve put more thought into my “teshuva” (Jewish process of reflection and repentance) than I ever have in years previously, maybe ever – and isn’t self-reflection, repentance, and growth what it’s all about?

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About the Author: Julie Thompson keeps Gather’s wheels turning behind the scenes as GatherDC’s Office Manager.  When Julie isn’t at the Gather office, she’s probably out with friends trying a new restaurant across DC, planning her next big trip to explore a new corner of the world, or snuggled in with a good book and her rescue cat, Chloe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site